Witness how this Ecuadorian-via-Switzerland duo evokes everything that’s beautiful and bleak from the desert, using hollowbodies, a serendipitous Strymon, and rhythmic hypnosis to paint an Ennio Morricone soundscape.
When some people travel, they take photos on their phone to remember the trip. Old-soul voyagers will recount their adventures with pen and paper. But for Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez, who together make the globetrotting Ecuadorian-Swiss duo Hermanos Gutiérrez, their experiences conjure soundtracks, and a visit years ago to the American Southwest changed their sound forever.
A couple years after forming their duo, the brothers took a trip through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. “It just blew our minds,” Estevan told PG. The desert, he says, “is where our music was born.”
“Part of what we’re doing is traveling together as brothers,” Alejandro told PG in 2022. “We go to places, we come back and we’re feeling inspired, and we feel like we’ve gotta write something about this place.”
After finding bountiful inspiration in the West, the duo began turning out mystical compositions, like sonic souvenirs and passport stamps on their consciousness. “It’s just beautiful where we can go with this music,” Alejandro said last year. “It’s just my brother and I together, and we’re so happy to have this.”
The sold-out Hermanos Gutiérrez concert at Nashville’s Basement East on June 20th marked their first time performing in Music City since recording El Bueno Y El Malo with Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound in 2022. The pair invited PG’s Chris Kies onstage to decode their spellbinding cinematic sounds. The conversation touched on their symbiotic alchemy, enchanting hollowbodies, and how a single Strymon reset their slow-burn backdrop.Brought to you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.
Like their muse the desert, the brothers’ setups are sparse. Each one totes a single hollowbody. Alejandro travels with his 1963 Silvertone 1446, which is stock except for a refret and custom-made, snake-like Bigsby arm, both done by longtime Dan Auerbach tech Dan Johnson. (You might recognize Dan from his three different Black Keys Rig Rundowns. Check out the latest one from 2019!)
Alejandro is a fingerstyle player (inspired by Estevan) and, at the suggestion of Johnson, uses Pyramid Gold Heavy (.013–.052).
For songs like “Tres Hermanos,” Alejandro gets down with this 1940s Rickenbacker Electro NS lap steel.
Estevan connected with Dan Auerbach’s 1958 Gretsch 6120 “Rudy” while tracking El Bueno Y El Malo at Easy Eye Sound last year. For road duties, he never leaves home without his own Gretsch G6120T-59 Vintage Select 1959 Chet Atkins hollowbody. Inspired by a random YouTube video of an older gentleman playing Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” Estevan built a partnership with the 6120. “I’ve tried many, many guitars, but none of them gives me the sound that is me except this Gretsch,” he says. Estevan puts D’Addario EXL 115 (.011–.049) strings on his creamy crusader.
Check out all the hip hardware substitutions and rattlesnake-approved artwork on Estevan’s 6120.
Given that Nashville and Easy Eye have become an oasis for Hermanos Gutiérrez, it makes sense they would take advantage of the studio’s library of vintage and vibey gear. For the Basement East show, Alejandro borrowed a 1960s Fender Deluxe Reverb from Easy Eye and plugged into the first input of the vibrato circuit.
Spaghetti in Stereo
When creating El Bueno Y El Malo, Estevan plugged into Auerbach’s vintage Magnatone for the whole recording process. (You can really hear the amp’s magic vibrato pulsing during the album’s opening title track.) For this show, he compromised by running his 6120 into a modern Magnatone Panoramic Stereo model.
Alejandro Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
Alejandro packs light with a compact board that holds a MXR Dyna Comp Mini, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, a Strymon Flint, and the influential Strymon El Capistan. While Estevan discovered the El Cap and unlocked its magic for Hermanos Gutiérrez (more on that in a second), Alejandro has molded it to his sound in different ways. “I use it as a layer,” he explains. “Really subtle. My brother uses it more as a delay. He has this horse sound, like this galloping sound he can create with his slapping, which only he can do.” A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps the Silvertone in line.
Estevan Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
You can see that Estevan utilizes nearly every square inch of his pedalboard. Overlaps between the brothers’ boards include the MXR Dyna Comp Mini, the Strymon Flint, and the aforementioned Strymon El Capistan. You might think their setup is basic now, but they used to play sans pedals. Eventually, Estevan discovered the Strymon El Capistan, and their sound was never the same. “I remember that day,” he recounted to PG about first playing the pedal. “I fell in love. I knew it was gonna change something in our sound.” As soon as he purchased the El Capistan, he called his brother and said, “You have to buy this. This is gonna be next level for us.”
The remaining effects for Estevan include a Malekko Omicron Vibrato, a Boss RC-500 Loop Station, and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner (off the board) keeps his Gretsch in check. Lastly, you’ll notice a G7th Performance 3 ART Capo on the pedalboard, too.
The middle kid in EHX’s expansive family of loopers inhabits a sweet spot between deep functionality and accessible, intuitive operation.
Great compromise between deep features and simplicity. Intuitive to use. Easy to interface with complementary app.
Easy to get lost in some compound octave and tempo-shift situations.
Electro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper
Ease of Use:
Looping is one of the best ways to transform guitar playing into meditation. Sure, certain looping styles can test your focus, improvisational and compositional skill, and sense of precision and timing. But looping can also be utterly mindless and abstract—a tabula rasa that lets your last thought and musical impulse guide your next in an endlessly blooming musical Mandelbrot set. A state of pure creative flow. I've written a few of my favorite songs using loopers in this way, and it always feels magical in the moment.
EHX's 1440 Stereo Looper excels at instigating that kind of intuitive layering. And it compounds the fun of those basic processes with reverse and variable tempo playback that can transform simple loops into wildly unique sound webs and radical pitch-shift collages. But it also enables the precise, rhythmically driven layering and composition techniques that hardcore loop scientists dig. There are simpler loopers, and certainly more complex ones, but the compact 1440 inhabits a sweet spot between those worlds—a distinction that adds up to a lot of creative upside.
Designed to Streamline
The 1440 is part of what's grown into a very comprehensive family of EHX loopers. As with its cousins, the simpler 360 and 720, and the much more complex 22500 and 45000, the name alludes to the pedal's maximum loop length. And at 1440 seconds—or up to 24 minutes—there's a load of looping time to work with.
The 1440 also has the capacity to store up to 20 loops, as well as goodies like unlimited overdubbing, variable fadeout length, stereo I/Os, tempo sync to MIDI, and a downloadable loop manager app (for Mac and Windows) that enables you to store loops or export audio to the 1440. There's enough to know (and enough ways to get into trouble) to make a thorough read of the manual worthwhile. But as deep as the features can seem, the 1440's streamlined control interface does an excellent job of keeping these features a touch or two away, rather than buried beneath layers of menus and complex click patterns.
Even the downloadable loop manager, which you access via a USB connection to your computer, is a breeze to use. It has a simple, graphic interface that enables you to drag audio files to and from virtual “slots" that correspond to the 20 banks on the pedal. It's also a fast way to move a loop to your recording software if you want to use the loop as a basis for a project.
Simple to Spun Out
Electro-Harmonix's efforts at making the 1440 navigable and accessible translate to confidence when using it in performance and facilitates experimentation. A lot of that ease is down to the logical layout and flow of the 10 controls.
The tempo switch opens up possibilities for surreal multi-tracking effects. It can be set for bpm-regulated adjustments (fine mode) or for half-step adjustments (coarse mode). Whether you chase precise subdivisions of tempo and pitch or stranger manipulations of those parameters, the possibilities are endless. You can increase tempo to pitch up a loop, play along, and then pitch down again to turn your previous loop into bass or baritone accompaniment. The same process can be used to achieve even weirder, smeared-and-bleary sub-bass washes. Really experimental improvisers will love the way you can record loops at super-disparate tempos, alter those tempos, then reverse them to create woozy swirls reminiscent of the Beatles musique-concréte and tape-loop experiments. Add ethereal reverb and delay to these types of loops and the effect can be mesmerizing, creating unusual beds and textures for longform ambient pieces, particularly when you stack long, spare loops.
These types of pieces, as well as tighter, more conventionally arranged fare, can also be further shaped with the overdub knob, which, depending on where you set it, will reduce the volume of previously recorded loops—transforming your composition into an evolving, fractal piece where previously recorded parts recede into the distance as if you're gliding down a river of sound.
Reverse and octave effects are the two other primary sound-shaping (or warping) functions. For the most part they are easy to use—particularly because you can activate either or both with the small push buttons in the middle of the pedal, or by assigning those functions to the stop switch. Recording a backwards solo, for instance, is as easy as reversing your initial loop, recording a lead passage, and then hitting reverse again. The octave switch is similarly easy to use, and killer for spectacular intros, outros, and demented solo sections when switched in and out judiciously. You can drift too far from home if you use the tempo and octave switches together in a fast-moving performance situation. If you're going for deconstructed psychedelic loop tapestries, these happy accidents can produce magic. But to use them effectively together—which can yield equally weird but more tightly arranged results—you should count on a bit of practice.
The EHX 1440 Stereo Looper is a sound collagist's tool box in a compact 1590-sized enclosure. While we only had space in this review to cover the most prominent features in depth, it's a deep, capable looper with plenty of memory for long-form looping, and a design streamlined enough to facilitate the most pedestrian looping tasks.
It takes a little practice and study to make the most of the 1440, but in general it's very accessible and intuitive. Whether you're trying to reconcile deep looping capabilities with pedalboard-friendly size, or keeping your feature set streamlined, the 1440 represents a very smart middle ground at a nice price. But make no mistake—this pedal is capable of deep, unconventional, and highly experimental, textures if you invest a little time to uncover its secrets.
Watch our Electro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper First Look:
It may be the understatement of the century, but this year was weird. Even so, the killer gear kept coming. Here are the goods that stood out as extra-great amongst our annual haul of Premier Guitar reviews.
With a two-button system for recording and playback, the Clone Looper simplifies many looping maneuvers by eliminating some double-click and hold sequences. But with awesome and trippy features like adjustable playback speed and reverse playback, you can easily take the Clone Looper's simpler looping processes to particularly psychedelic ends.
This handwired 1x12 combo employs a KT66 power tube for its class-A circuitry, resulting in glassy cleans reminiscent of a tweed Champ, and fat and pleasantly compressed high-gain tones without sacrificing shine. Joe Gore was also impressed with its aesthetic and workmanship, as well as Silktone's spring reverb. “It's got the feel of a vintage Fender tank, but with uncommon wetness and depth."
$2,199 street, as reviewed with ceramic speaker (alnico speaker $200 extra)
Vintera Telecaster '50s
Just about any Telecaster flirts with perfection in form. But Fender did not rest on their laurels in re-interpreting the '50s-styled variation in the new, affordable Vintera series. The neck is lovely, with a hefty deep-U shape, and the alnico 2 bridge pickup delivers the essence of bright, spanky, and rowdy Tele-ness, while maintaining a warm glow around the edges that is a beautiful match for a touch of vintage-style reverb.
Vintera Telecaster '70s
Keith Richards, who could have any freaking Telecaster in the world if he wanted it, has used the Telecaster Custom he bought new in 1975 regularly ever since. When you play the Vintera version, it's easy to understand why. Fender's Tim Shaw worked hard to build a more authentic WideRange humbucker for this instrument, and the work paid off—creating an expansive palette of spanky-to-smoky tones when paired with the alnico 5 bridge single-coil.
Red Label FSX3
Adam Perlmutter found that the OM-sized FSX3, which honors Yamaha's much-loved red-label guitars of the '70s, feels better-built than the company's original FG guitars, which is no small compliment. Perlmutter shared that the FSX3, boasting all-solid-wood construction, “feels great, exhibits real versatility, and is free of the old-guitar baggage that comes with vintage examples."
Hall of Fame 2x4
A maximalist expansion of TC's popular Hall of Fame 2 pedal, this reverb machine boasts 10 factory settings, six user memory slots, and eight stored patches, accessible via its four hefty footswitches. “Everything about the Hall of Fame 2 x4 Reverb is exceptional," is the word from reviewer Joe Gore, who welcomed its rich and varied reverbs, as well as the pedal's delightfully simple interface.
Origin's luxurious stomps feel like outboard studio gear from analog audio's golden age. The RevivalDRIVE, however, has so much tone-sculpting power that it actually tends to function and sound like an old recording console module, too. The EQ is powerful, sensitive, and responsive, and the low-end tones are especially delectable. If you need an overdrive that can fill a very specific mix niche, this tool is worth every penny.
This ultra-versatile multi-effects pedal captivated PG with its ability to control, shape, and expand natural playing dynamics through its five different types of compression, a 3-band Baxandall-inspired EQ, and a 20 dB clean boost. Boasting super-sensitive knobs with finely tailored sweeps, the folks at Jackson Audio topped off the Bloom with MIDI control over all parameters via its TRS input.
Ram's Head Big Muff
Given what a vintage Ram's Head Big Muff costs these days, this new version's $99 price tag alone is cause for celebration. But the tab is extra-impressive when you hear how well EHX nailed a vintage Ram's Head's legendary essence. It's growling, bold in the midrange, and stings like a wasp when you run the gain and tone wide open. If you don't have the bucks for a vintage pedal or a high-end Ram's Head clone, this remarkably economical iteration is a must for rounding out your Big Muff collection.
This 20-watt, 1x10 combo from the folks at Blackstar got high marks for its retro style, user-friendly, ergonomic control panel, and all points in between. Joe Gore was wowed by the Standard's attractive amp and effects emulations—especially given its modest price tag—and shared that Blackstar's compact 30-pound combo would make for a convenient gig companion or great living room amp.
The Collider, which combines some functionality from the already expansive Ventris reverb and Nemesis delay, seems like it might be a handful to manage. In fact, the Collider's clever integration of its parent effects makes exploring the wide-ranging feature set—which includes new emulations like an excellent Tel-Ray-style oil can delay—an intuitive and fun portal to thousands of huge and rich time-manipulation textures.
SE Hollowbody Standard
The Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody model has become a modern classic since its design was first introduced in 1998. And it's now available (and made much more affordable) as part of the company's made-in-China SE range. But don't let the down-market pricing fool you: Its elegant design, PRS-created hardware and electronics, and excellent playability easily earned the SE Hollowbody Standard a Premier Gear Award.
American Ultra Jazz
As daunting as it is to alter a classic, revered instrument like the J, Fender hit it out of the park with subtle yet significant updates to its look and design. And with passive and active tones at the ready, Victor Brodén lauded the versatility of the Ultra Jazz, which allowed him to effortlessly conjure Marcus Miller-to-Jaco-esque tones.